Insecure Co-workers & Conflict: A Tale Of Two Sides

Co-workers, love ‘em or hate ‘em it’s hard to avoid them.

So what do you do when you work with someone who is insecure, fixates on tiny problems (that they must tell the world that they found) and won’t move on long after an issue has been thrashed out?

confictAs I work from home I’m normally insulated from any office hysterics caused by  Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome or TDES**.

My usual protocol is to sigh, roll my eyes at the offending email and get a cup of tea while I formulate a measured, non-threatening response while asking one of the cats what on earth was going through their mind when they decided to;

  1. Pen the email instead of call me
  2. CC everyone under the sun including the boss over something so minor

However, I recently found myself in a situation where I did allow a person to get under my skin face to face.  I won’t go into details except to say I believe it was a complete misinterpretation of my actions, it certainly was of my intent.  I was measured and (I think) rational  in my response until my integrity was attacked.  That’s kind of my hill to die on.

Now I know that this person is pretty emotional. Normally I make allowances for them, as outside of work I quite like the guy and I also understand from personal experience just how irrational insecurity can make you.

So, what do you do when someone attacks you and then can’t or won’t provide examples of the behaviour?  My response was to continue to push for one, that only served to make them more defensive.  In the end I did something I rarely do, I tried to justify my perceived actions on one of my offences.  This was also a mistake as it gave them the opportunity to tell me that they didn’t believe me.  It was at this point I said there was nothing more to be discussed and walked away.  Neither party was abusive or rude during our robust debate, but it wasn’t our finest hours either.

So, what would I do differently?

  • I’d have stuck with my original plan of discussing the issue at a later date when we were both cooler headed
  • I would have been less blunt when I called them out on this issue
  • I’d have had a clear strategy on the formal move forward position*

What did I learn?

  • Someone’s perception is their reality and it is very had to change
  • Remember who you are talking to and respond accordingly
  • Walking away after making arrangements to discuss at a different time is usually always the smarter move long term
  • Emotional responses are not always logical
  • Putting the event behind you and treating the person professionally will help restore at least a working relationship even if the personal relationship is destroyed
  • My boss will back me 100% when I’m right (he’s awesome)

Do I regret what happened?  To a degree, but I don’t regret defending myself.  I know that in a year from now they’ll still be harbouring a grudge and trying to make my professional life difficult wherever possible and that isn’t ideal. However, I’m a big girl and fortunately they aren’t in a position to do any real damage to me.

Any tips on how I could have handled this differently or what you’ve done in the same situation

  * This all took place after a work social function. I asked for the perceived issues with my performance to be tabled in a formal manner so they could be addressed openly.  The response was they “might decide to in the future”.  I’m not a fan of anyone holding something over my head as such, so I’ve already flagged the discussion with the powers that be.

 ** Credit to Mr Money Mustache for creating TDES

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